- For the week ending July 29, 110,477 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Florida, according to state health officials.
- With more than 1,000 COVID patients in hospitals in its six-county area, AdventHealth of Orlando has suspended elective operations.
- A warning from a Texas health expert: “By not getting us vaccinated and doing your part, we risk crashing one of the most advanced health systems in the world.” “
A fourth wave of COVID-19 threatens to overwhelm U.S. hospitals in areas where large swathes of unvaccinated people offer little resistance to the highly contagious delta variant.
Nowhere is the tension more apparent than in Florida, which hit a new peak on Tuesday of 11,515 people hospitalized with COVID-19, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Last week, hospitals in Jacksonville and Orlando passed their pandemic peaks, and Miami-Dade County hospitals are seeing or approaching record coronavirus hospitalizations this week, said Mary Mayhew, CEO of the Florida Hospital Association.
And cases continue to rise with 110,477 residents testing positive for the COVID-19 virus for the week ended July 29, pointing to more people needing hospital care in the weeks to come.
“The delta variant rips up the unvaccinated,” Mayhew said.
Across Florida, wave of COVID “is straining our system”
Hospitals are also stressed by larger than normal volumes of sick people filling emergency rooms with non-COVID illnesses, Mayhew said. The combination has tested the ability of hospitals to recruit enough nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and other clinicians to handle the wave of critically ill patients.
With more than 1,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals in its six-county area, AdventHealth of Orlando suspended elective operations last week to free up staff and space. More than 90% of COVID patients in AdventHealth hospitals are unvaccinated, and the small number of patients vaccinated with COVID typically have underlying conditions such as cancer or autoimmune disease, the hospital said. .
“We have passed all of the previous waves and it puts a strain on our system, our physicians and all of our clinicians,” said Neil Finkler, clinical director of AdventHealth’s Central Florida division.
“None of these patients thought they had the virus. But the delta variant has been shown to be so contagious that even young and healthy people, including pregnant patients, are starting to fill our hospitals.”
While hospitals from the northeast to the southwest have set up temporary field hospitals in past outbreaks, Mayhew said hospitals in Florida are converting existing hospital space to install beds. Hospitals are making room in conference rooms, cafeterias and auditoriums.
Mayhew said converting existing hospital space makes more efficient use of limited staff rather than scrambling to staff a remote field hospital in a parking lot or convention center.
Public health officials have called for tougher measures after the CDC last week recommended all students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 wear masks in classrooms. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis followed with an executive order blocking mask warrants in schools and school districts that found they could not legally enforce a mask requirement.
“Every staffed bed” is full in some Texas hospitals
In Texas, hospitals are bracing for the steady rise in COVID-related hospitalizations that follow the surge in cases. Like in Florida, Texas hospital beds are filled with unvaccinated COVID patients, said Angela G. Clendenin, a professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health.
While previous waves of COVID-19 have primarily affected older and middle-aged adults with existing health issues, the new wave calls for young adults in their 20s and 30s who need breathing apparatus in the units. intensive care hospitals, Clendenin said.
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The result is that hospitals are re-preparing or adopting contingency plans to convert medical wings into intensive care units, she said.
“By not getting us vaccinated and doing your part, we risk crashing one of the most advanced health systems in the world,” Clendenin said.
Hospitals in South Texas are already struggling to keep pace with sick patients.
South Texas hospitals in Corpus Christi, Victoria, Kingsville, Beeville and San Antonio have started to turn patients away. In a statement this week, Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales urged available nurses to fill a staffing gap amid a wave of COVID-19 patients.
“Each staffed bed is full,” Canales said. “There are beds available but no nurses for them. “
While Florida and Texas accounted for a third of all COVID cases last week, cases, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing in almost every state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Missouri, which only exceeds Louisiana in cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days, hospitals are bracing for the stressful weeks ahead.
Hospitalizations during the wave swept away by the delta exceeded last winter’s peak in several communities, said Dave Dillon, spokesperson for the Missouri Hospital Association.
“The growth in positivity and hospitalizations that might have taken months in 2020 is now happening in weeks with delta,” Dillon said. “We’re probably going to have a tough summer and fall.”
Contribution: Vicky Camarillo, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times
Ken Alltucker is on Twitter as @kalltucker or can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org